Stop & Take It In | A Call To Pause

The best piece of advice I was given before my wedding was to pause and take it all in. To quite literally stop, look around and let my mind take in what was happening at that given moment. I vividly remember sitting at our little head table, looking out over a beautiful, warmly lit ballroom filled with the sounds and sights of significant people in our lives, all gathered to celebrate two lives becoming one. In that moment and in this one today I am grateful for the advice to pause and take it in.

 

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This morning as I fed Hazel her bottle I found myself mindlessly staring at her eyelashes--taking her in without even realizing I was doing it. I then began to intentionally take in this miracle girl as she dozed off into her beloved and trusty morning rest. My mind then wandered back to my time of worship last Sunday morning. How I had to painstakingly bring myself to sing with i.n.t.e.n.t.i.o.n.a.l.i.t.y. Even with the good and beautiful things, our minds have been made in such a way that they jump right into what is familiar and well practiced without much intention or effort. I can worship my Almighty God and still wander about in my thoughts regarding what I'm wearing or what we are going to do later or the tray of donuts that are always calling my name a mere handful of feet away. To worship Him, really worship with my entire being, required the effort intentionality calls for.

The pause to take all of Him in.

Pausing takes a lot of effort if you really think about it. We are wired to go, go, go. So today I paused and took in my daughter. "She is really mine. She has been given breath and life and a soul that will long for the Savior the same way mine did and still does even now. This life with her is real and happening now and will never happen in this same way again."

As I walked throughout my home, I was acutely aware (as I usually am) of the amount of toys, socks, and randomly misplaced items strewn about each room. Usually this causes me to swing into a flurry of irritability, frustration, and panic while a rain cloud of "should's" begins to pour over me, drowning me in my apparent "failure at life and keeping it all together". But this morning I was given the incredible gift of pause.

There will be a day where there are no toys strewn about.

There will be a day when all the things stay in their place because little hands are now big and responsible and have their own things in their own places.

There will be a day when neither my arms or my provision will be required for that daughter of mine to fall asleep or find the rest she longs for.

There will be a day when that son of mine will help himself to snacks and shows and decisions and mistakes. Neither my ability to create adventure nor my opinion on what is considered adventurous will be required because he will have become a man of his own ideas and faith and living.

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So today I took in all the toys, the sounds of his laughter from the other room while he watched Curious George, and each and every demanding and exhausting detail of this current life. Each day I have a choice: wish my life looked easier/prettier/freer or love every single raw and real bit that is now.

I'm pausing today for the days ahead. The days when:

Fake tattoos become real ones

The cries of a bumped noggin become the ones of a broken heart

The nonexistent "me-time" becomes a search for a new passion and purpose in this calling of motherhood

The two little sets of feet crawling about our bed find their own place to land and the two of us that started this thing become "just the two of us" once again.

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Can you see the weight of beauty and glory that is this one life we get to live? If you cannot, the best advice I can give you is the same that was given to me at the start of this all.

Pause. Take it in. This thing that is happening is yours.

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To My Grown Daughter | On Your First Birthday

(Actually, 7 days after your first birthday. Let that be a big exhale for you, darling daughter. You can have the best laid plans, but you can only do what you can, and in reality, it's ok to write a letter to your daughter 7 days after she turns one, instead of on the day.)

I don't know where you are on this day, but I know where I am today, and I think it might release a little something in you that will allow you to live a little fuller and freer in your skin and your life, being reminded of who you really are.

Today I am 32, and most days feel like a game of tug-o-war; being pulled this way and that, between my dreams and life's demands. Majority of it's demands are good, and come from the mouths of the people I love the most. Hazel, while it feels exhausting and often times too much, it's all really good stuff--the stuff that makes up a life. It is beautiful and holy and completely ordinary. What's more, it is intricately laced with the love of God. If you find yourself in a moment of emptiness, feeling as if you are giving to those you love from a source already depleted, know that you are walking on holy ground--the very ground your mama walked before you. Drop to your knees and receive from the One who's supply is abundant. Sometimes you'll need Him just to get to the next moment in life, and other times you'll find yourself going far too long without looking to Him to be filled; if that is the case, don't walk back to him--run. Hard and fast. Because I promise you, all those other things pale in comparison to what He longs to give you and allowing Him into the every day "mundane" of life is the very thing that turns the mundane into a life of adventure and magic and whimsy.

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One thing we have learned about you in your first year of life is that you have these magical eyes. They radiate love. They draw others in. And I like to think they reflect, even a fraction of, the joy found in the eyes of the Father. I pray your eyes stay magical and that they develop the ability to see the love, joy and whimsy in others, and that in your growth you develop the strength and courage to call those things out in others--to be a voice of truth in their lives that tells them who they are and to Whom they belong.

I've discovered recently that the change happening in my heart, the one that is making my heart more like Christ's and less like my flesh, is a bit disjointed from my lips. The thoughts in my head rarely come out of my lips the same; something I am asking Papa to grow and change in me. I pray you will grow to be a woman who speaks eloquent words full of grace, truth and conviction. That you would reflect the heart of God with the way you speak to others, and with the way you speak to yourself.

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I'm sure you've known for quite some time now about the one who strives to keep you small. The one who tells you your voice is insignificant and that your reach is limited. He's the one who clouds your eyes, silences your lips, and deflates your heart. I'm learning today that life is made up not of falling in defeat to the enemy's arrows of deceit, but of falling to my knees before my strong and mighty God, expectant that He will lift me up to stand tall as the woman He fashioned me to be--the woman I am on this very day--who is far more than she believes, withholding greater strength, love and joy.

Beautiful girl, I think this is what makes life so holy. The continual choosing of God, of your original design, of mercy and love and acceptance of others. It's this beautiful, dramatic dance, and He invites us in every day. As I watch you waddle across the floor, I envision you walking confidently into the arena that He has prepared for you. As I hear you babble and tell us what is on your mind, with such confidence and joy in your eyes, I envision you commanding a crowd of eager men and women, proclaiming the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. As you wrestle and fight for what is yours, and keep your eyes on your limitations, waiting for your chance to take new ground, I pray you will carry that same tenacity into the land He has prepared for your adult years. That you would see greater freedom for your family and run hard towards it at the first opportunity. That you would see the places where the enemy has laid strongholds and that you would fight your way in and break them with confidence.

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Hazel, your life is one of my greatest joys. Papa has used your life as an invitation for me to take new ground, to settle a little deeper into my own promised land, and to proclaim greater freedom over your life and over the ways you grow and the realities you take as your own. On this day, I am proclaiming the words of Timothy when he says that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of POWER and LOVE and of SOUND-MIND. This is my promised land, and it's yours too.

Darling daughter, I am fighting my fiercest fight so that you can live free. I promise you that I will never stop fighting for my own freedom from sin and bondage and generational sin so that your life can be filled with all of the joy and whimsy and purpose that He set out for it to. Life won't be "perfect" by the world's standards, but in the holiness we find His perfection, and in my experience that's immeasurably better.

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I love you, Hazel. I pray that every single day of your life you know that. But even more than that, I pray that every single day of your life you know that He loves you. He loves you with a fierce and wild and strong and merciful love. I pray that His love will continue to cover over every single moment my love has fallen short. I pray that you will take for yourself your own determination to love those in your life with even greater tenacity and determination than I did--that the generational bonds would not only be broken but reversed and made to reflect the character and love of God in an even greater way with each generation that comes after us.

If, when you read this or any day thereafter, you find me living a defeated life, I give you permission to remind me of these very words. I implore you to challenge me with the Truth of God's word and my very own testimony--and yours. Don't ever feel that you cannot tell your mama a thing or two about life. Ask your dad--I've always said I wanted us to be teachable by our kids. So if my attitude says otherwise, hit me with my own words. I pray I raise you to be a woman who does not back down out of fear of ruffling feathers. (This one might be a lesson later in life, as I need to figure it out myself first before I can teach you.) It's ok to ruffle feathers when it will bring a person face to face with the Truth.

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I could go on and on about all of the things I hope and pray for you. What's incredible is that my hopes and dreams pale in comparison to your Papa's. He loves you, my sweet girl. It will be my greatest joy to watch you discover that with each passing year, and I cannot wait to see the woman that you are when you read these words.

I love you, my darling daughter.

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Lord, she is wild and strong and so full of love. Let me never take an ounce of that away from her, but let me be a source that You use to feed the woman inside of her that You so delicately and purposefully designed. Lord, may she have lips of conviction--lips that cannot help but speak what she knows is true and right and lovely. And with each word may she demonstrate the kindness and grace found in the One who made her. Lord, let her grow to not only appreciate but to understand the very purpose of her physical being--that she is a vessel that houses Your very Spirit, and with that she has been given the invitation to join You in the miraculous and adventurous life written for her. Lord, let her love with abandon and a complete unawareness of what it feels like to need to be loved by someone else first. Let her just love. Love and love and love and know that the love she receives from You is the real stuff of life. Lord, let her teach. Let her teach the future generations, her generation and mine, especially. I know that she will have so much to teach us women in those days, and I pray in advance for Spirits eager to hear Your heart for us daughters. Mostly Lord, I pray she will know every single day of her life that her life has incredible purpose, and never for one second has it ever been or will it ever be "just another life." You set out for her to be here, and You made a way for her to come. With that let her live a life of bold and unwavering purpose. Let it be because of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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And a few more photos because they are too good not to share: (Photos by ((the INCREDIBLY talented)) Renee Johannesen--@photographybyrenee

 

Choose Your Words Wisely

You know how God tends to speak in themes? Well, here's the theme for me as of late.

Choose your words wisely

Recently at our Mamas Lifegroup we were discussing the way in which we speak about church involvement to our kids. I was curious of their opinions on how to raise kids in the church and not bring them to a point of running for the hills as soon as they turn 18. One of my friends had such simple and beautiful advice: 

"We get to go to church" not "We have to go to church"

She went on to share how when they go and serve in the baby room, she talks with her daughter about how they get to go serve Jesus--of which she then later repeats, in typical 4 year old fashion, with great enthusiasm as she tells of their day's activities.

It's all about the words.

Then yesterday, as I mind-numbingly scrolled Instagram, I came across a post that ignited soul-exposing truth and conviction in a way that brought with it mercy and empowerment and a setting-of-my-place that was so incredibly necessary.

Let me back-track a bit first.

I've got all these dreams and to-do's. I will talk about all the ways I'm going to get this thing done or stop doing that other thing that doesn't serve me, or how I'm going to one day be a part of this other big thing that will spill over into people's lives in a really beautiful and God-honoring way. This type of self-talk has also developed in the way that I handle the everyday-ness of my life--how eventually I will mother this way, or wife in that way. 

There's a whole lot of "one day"'s and not many "today"'s.

The root of it is that I have this tendency to distract my soul. All of the hard work and perseverance to do any and all of those things is found in an alive and active soul. But apparently I like to keep mine distracted.

(I also came upon this revelation whilst scrolling Instagram. Good to know God is mighty enough to use my soul's greatest distraction to bring conviction and release and truth in Light.)

So yesterday, when I read the words that brought my soul to a halt, I could've cried at the conviction and the mercy that collided right before my eyes.

"I'll do it tomorrow. Four words, that seem like basic procrastination, are actually a hiding place for so much sin... "I'll do" and "tomorrow" are staples in my mental vocabulary, giving me a false sense of power, security, and dominion over my flesh. But they lie. The lie of "I'll do..." is that in my own efforts, by my own intelligence and savvy, I can muster up the ability to create lasting change. It's thinking that I'm able to wake up one day and be different, just because I want to be. It's living in the delusion that my flesh isn't that strong, sin isn't that bad, and I'm not that enslaved. I can do it. The lie of "tomorrow" is that I'm in control of time and don't live by human limitations. Although the sins of others need to be stopped immediately, I can do mine for a little longer without really reaping any serious consequences. It's presuming God's grace, making it cheap for my own convenience. It's thinking that I'm in charge of what happens tomorrow, and believing it's guaranteed to be there." -Risen Motherhood's Emily Jensen

Can you see the collision? The conviction, oh the conviction! Sin has a way of coming off as so innocent, doesn't it? It's not like I set out to do these completely inappropriate things in the face of God's incredible mercy and favor. But they happened. I assumed my sin was not as appalling as someone else's. I  gave my own willpower and can-do spirit credentials that are completely unfitting. I assumed, somewhere inside of me, without realizing it, that I was going to be the one to bring about change in the way in which life happens in my world.

Excuse me while I bring my palm to my face and slowly shake my head from side to side.

Emily continues on by saying, 

"Instead of "I'll do it tomorrow", it's time to start saying, "God, help me.... today." It's immediate repentance when I feel my heart resisting holiness and longing to live for myself. It's stopping in my tracks, acknowledging my own inability, and crying out for His ability. It's getting down to pray in those moments, even with my kids beside me, to admit, "Mommy needs God's help."

Funny how changing just a couple of the words we use can either make or break where we find ourselves at the table with God, and where others find themselves, too. Either eager and full of zeal for who He is and the place in which we stand in service to Him, or full of pride and distant, believing that His death wasn't as strong as our own will-power.

A collision of conviction and mercy.

Will you be choosy with me? In the words we use and the posture we take? Sin, while at times seemingly innocent, will not hold back it's sting. Knowing that, lets make the first words we choose be, "God, help me... today. Thank You for all of the 'get-to's'!"

Our Little Life Celebrated

Today we celebrated our baby's second DueDate Day. The further away we get from her actual loss,  it feels a little more like a celebration and a little less like a day of mourning.

I tend to hear that lie, the one that says I'm making too big of a deal of it.

But today, like all the other days, I'm continuing to celebrate her life because that's just what it was--a life.

Today I had my act together though. I called our favorite donut place (shout out to Puffy Cream Donuts) two days ago and placed an order for four raised glazed with pink frosting and sprinkles. Just what I would imagine she would have loved.

Recently my memory was jogged and I remembered in detail the cloud of sorrow that hovered over our small little home two and a half years ago. It was just a dark, dark time. Then I remembered all of the incredible women I know who have been brave and have shared their loss with the world. I think women on the whole are becoming more brave these days, and it's a magnetic and breathtaking thing to watch.

I would venture to say that any mother who has had a miscarriage would agree when I say that it's not a cry for attention or pity. It's a longing to let the world around us know that we absolutely are not doing alright, and that something big and life-shaping has happened to us. It's an inability to pretend like that life doesn't matter enough to be spoken of. It's a soul-deep understanding that life matters from the moment it is sparked. 

It's also the laying-to-rest of dreams, thoughts, ideas, musings, plans, hopes and joys. It's a picture of your family wiped clean in a moment and the flood of questions that comes after that.

So, sharing about loss is not a cry for attention or the sharing of too much information.

It's the mourning of so many things and of one little life all at the same time.

So today, we celebrated her little life awaiting us in Heaven. I love telling Malachi about her, and I love that as he gets older he asks more questions. I said to Thomas the other day, "wouldn't it be so cool if when the kids are older and on their own they still stopped and got a sprinkled donut on May 20th?" He said that it is more of our own thing and that they probably won't but I'm holding on to hope that our kids are even half as sentimental as their mom--which means they are getting donuts on May 20th.

To all you mamas who have lost little ones, I stand with you, holding your hand, and remembering the little life that belongs to you and yours.

To all the mamas who are awaiting a little life to join your family, I stand with you in faith that the God we serve is one of abundant grace and sovereignty and that the desires deep within you were seeds planted by His very hand.

Continue in your beautiful bravery, warrior women. Your voices are heard and your mourning is seen and you are absolutely not alone.

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**If you would like to read a bit more of our story of loss, you can find it here**

Because It's Mother's Day

Mother's Day. Such a hard day because it's in celebration of moms, who are, on the whole, an abyss of emotions and scars and dreams.

Being a mom, and wanting to be a mom, is emotional.

Not being a mom and not wanting to be a mom is also emotional. 

There's just a lot of assumption surrounding the title, and yet we all just want to know that we are enough just as we are, whether we are mothering or not.

So to all women, who were designed with a gift of loving and nurturing, I celebrate you. I celebrate that you care for people in your life with tenacity and grace. I celebrate you for every single moment that you have chosen to get up and keep going, against all thoughts and feelings taking up residence in your brain.

I wrote this to myself two years ago, and not-surprisingly, I still need it today.

May these words be salve to your mighty and brave heart, dear woman.

"To you, mom. 

Do you know that what you do is excellent and worthy of praise? Do you know that, whether you believe it or not, you are in fact clothed with strength and dignity? I know this because I see you get up and love, every single day. You choose them, over and over. You set aside convenience for fierce and selfless love. To do that takes strength and dignity, and you, beautiful one, are clothed in both.

So whether you feel worthy of being celebrated today, the truth of the matter is that you are. You are far more than you believe yourself to be and today, I'm thankful for you. For all that you have taught me about loving and living as "mom". 

Bask in the goodness of your job today. It's such a good one!"

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